Athletics and Halloween!

LSUAny successful athletics department will be a active member of their community and seek ways to engage fans with events that take place off the athletic field or court. Specifically, donors appreciate efforts made to bring fans together in ways that are family friendly and involve interaction with coaches and players.

Several universities are taking advantage of a unique fall holiday, Halloween, and incorporating it into an event that will please supporters and the community.

LSU Halloween BOOzar: The week before Halloween, LSU is hosting a free trick-or-treat event for families that will provide children and adults the opportunity to meet various LSU athletes. The free event will also allow guests to participate in activities and get player autographs.

Northern Illinois University Husky Halloween Bash: The Bash will take place on Halloween, between the home football and volleyball games at NIU. The event is free to all, and those who come dressed will be granted admission to the night volleyball game as well. Men’s and women’s basketball team members will be handing out candy, and NIU 2009 hall of fame members will also be recognized during the event.

Vanderbilt: Special pre-game activities on Saturday before the home football game against Georgia Tech are sure to guarantee increased children attendance. Trick-or-treating, carnival rides, live music, and autographs from the basketball teams will highlight the events, and guests can bring as much candy as they can carry into the stadium.

These events, while unlikely to bring in a wave of gifts, do provide plenty of goodwill in the community, provide family opportunities to get involved with student-athletes, and bring supporters to campus for reasons other than a sporting event. In the long run, the gifts may come as supporters become to feel more connected to the university and athletics.


Martin Stadium

Martin Stadium opened September 30, 1972.

Washington State University is using town hall meetings to speed the process of Phase III of its Martin Stadium Renovation. The third step in the four-phase process will feature the addition of luxury suites, loge boxes, and club seats atop the north stands of the stadium. The WSU Athletic Foundation hopes that the town hall meetings will lead to the investment in 80 percent of the club seats. If this level is reached by December 18, the renovation can be completed by the 2011 Cougar Football season, one year ahead of schedule.

Portions of Phase I and Phase II were completed between September 2007 and August 2008. Phase I included the addition renovations to the restrooms in Martin Stadium, new stadium entrances, and year round ticket office. Phase II involved another allotment of restroom upgrades, a new parking area, and a new entry gate. Each of the first two stages involved improving areas that often plague a fan’s experience at athletic events: restrooms, parking, and concessions.

There will be six town hall meetings held in some of the cities with the most Cougar supporters. Five will take place in the state of Washington (Pullman, Seattle, South Sound, Tri-Cities, and Spokane) and another in Portland, Oregon. The town hall meetings will feature Washington State Director of Athletics, Jim Sterk, and members of the WSU Athletic Foundation staff. The town hall meetings will be open to the general public with special invitations sent out to supporters in each particular area.

Town hall meetings allow foundation staffs to get in front of supporters while encouraging their participation in the planning process. By taking these presentations on the road, Washington State was able to get face-to-face meetings with many potential amenity purchasers. This is crucial for the all-important third phase of the renovation that requires mass participation to close each of the boxes and club seats. Washington State also kept the meetings open to the public to allow potential donors who might not be on its radar to attend the event. Town hall meetings can be a great tactic for development staffs to use for a variety of objectives, but it is important to limit their use to prevent over-kill with potential attendees.

As a 2007 graduate from the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences, I have received multiple pieces of e-mail and brochures encouraging me to give back to the school and help shape its future. None of these pieces were very revolutionary, simply brochures, letters, and newsletter e-mails.

A screen shot of the e-mail.

A screen shot of the e-mail.

However, yesterday I received an e-mail from the school with a leading question, “See the one question that will shape our future.” In the e-mail was a link that looked like the picture to the right. Once clicked upon, there was a video of a young man talking about the college and number one reason why people do not give back-they have never been asked. So here he was, asking me to pledge to donate a certain amount and help give back to the school.

When the video was over, I was prompted with a form that already had all of my information filled in, all I had to do is verify it was correct and click which amount I desired, which was $25, $50 or my own amount. Once this was done, I was asked if I would like to be contacted by phone, e-mail or mail.

The video player was put on a separate site customized for the school.

The video player was put on a separate site customized for the school.

This innovative design provides a different approach to the ask. In athletics, the school could leverage its relationship with a popular coach or administrator to make the ask, causing potential donors to feel the connection with the school and program. While this may not be good for soliciting large dollar amounts, it could be very effective for getting people on board. The ease of the process made it very easy from a donor standpoint.

The tool was developed by Pursuant Group, a fundraising agency that specializes in building tools for non-profits and other companies looking to increase their development capabilities.

IPTAYClemson University celebrated IPTAY Day during the Tigers’ game against Wake Forest this past Saturday. IPTAY Day involved the club presenting its annual check to the student-athletes at Clemson while also providing recognition for the club as it enters its 76th year of operation.

IPTAY, which stands for I Pay Ten A Year, was started in 1934 as an Ivy League-esque secret society to support the struggling Clemson athletics department. The club’s support over the years has helped fuel the on-field and off-field success of Tiger student-athletes as the club has generated funds for scholarships, facilities, and improved systems in campus structures. Today the club has over 19,000 members and contributed over $21 million last year.

This is one many IPTAY Days that the club does at Clemson sporting events over the course of the year. The events not only celebrates the long-time support of the club but also gives the club much needed exposure to Clemson fans that aren’t currently a member of the club or a supporter of Tiger Athletics as a whole. By devoting an entire game to its club, it allows Clemson to honor the fantastic contributions of the club throughout the course of the year, while providing one game for every out-of-town member to circle on their calendar as a game to attend. Many athletic funds do celebrate the contributions of its athletic clubs with check presentations, but very few devote an entire day to its contributions.

cincinnatiThe University of Cincinnati is currently amidst a large, university-wide capital campaign that will benefit many departments, including athletics. For the Bearcats, the Jefferson Avenue Sports Complex is sitting front and center to all donors wishing to support the Athletics Department. The complex, which will consist of two fields, one 100 yards in length and the other being 50 yards, will support the football and women’s lacrosse programs, among others. As planned, the facility will get an inflatable “bubble” each winter to allow for indoor practices in the chilly Cincinnati weather.

What was unexpected, however, is a recent set of events that kept the facility campaign on track and at the forefront of donor minds. In late September, Bearcat supporter Larry Sheakley, the CEO of the Sheakley Group, initiated a $1 million matching gift challenge to support the campaign. In impressive fashion, the UC support system was able to match Mr. Sheakley’s gift in just two short weeks.

This display of fundraising brings an interesting strategy into light. Instead of merely accepting  a large gift from a donor such as Mr. Sheakley, why shouldn’t other universities propose the gift “challenge” with their top-tier supporters. Not only does a challenge such as this receive media attention, it can also re-invigorate a capital funds drive.

An outside the stadium shot featured on www.newkenan.com.

An outside the stadium shot featured on http://www.newkenan.com.

The University of North Carolina‘s Athletics Department has recently launched a website dedicated to the explanation of their football stadium renovation. This site joins a growing trend in college athletics of schools using a website to inform the public of the project, give great visual examples, and grow awareness of the avenues for support.

The site, www.newkenan.com, serves as a valuable tool for educating donors on the processes that will change with the addition of the site. The site features some exciting video of the football team, a sweeping shot of the stadium designed to make viewers feel as if they are on the field, and a whole space dedicated to donor support.

The new stadium will feature premium seating, suites, and club/loge seating. If a donor is intrigued by the offers, they can fill out and mail in a Letter of Intent for priority consideration for the new premium seating options.

Yet the East End Zone Structure will not only house premium seating, but also a Student-Athlete Center for Excellence. This structure will house additional academic housing, an Olympic sports weight center, and a center for leadership training. By adding these features, the new building will not only help generate revenue, but also aid the student-athletes of the school.

There are many other websites promoting their projects. Examples include the new Knight Arena at Oregon, the Gridiron Club at Kansas, and the Memorial Stadium Renovation at Cal.

Wisconsin BadgersThe University of Wisonsin-Madison dedicated the newly created Thomas Zimmer Cross Country Course on Saturday, October 3. The course is the first dedicated cross country course the UW cross country team has competed on in decades. The course was spearheaded by gifts from Thomas Zimmer, a long-time supporter of Badger athletics and collegiate runner at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and Chuck LaBahn, a former Badger swimmer and recently retired CEO of Orion Corporation.

Zimmer cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony prior to the course’s debut at the inaugural Wisconsin adidas Invitational. The course was put in Zimmer’s name to honor his many years of service and support to the Badger Fund. The course runs adjacent to the University Ridge golf course and allows the nationally ranked men’s and women’s cross country teams, 13th and 28th respectively in the most recent U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association National Rankings, a top of the line home course.

This gift is a great example of engaging aid from donors for non-revenue sports. With the two major donors having competed as student-athletes for non-revenue sports, they saw the rare opportunity to show support to sports often over looked by athletic development funds. Cross country courses also present a unique way to improve the competitive environment for a large number of student-athletes while not requiring constructing a brand new facility.